<i> Once a Mouseketeer, always a Mousketeer</i> . <i> . . </i>

It may seem somewhat sentimental and prejudiced, but since I was fortunate enough to be one of the original 24 Mouseketeers who helped Walt Disney open his dream park in 1955, I find myself feeling the same emotions now as I did then. As a mother of two kids, there is a great sense of pride and accomplishment in seeing the park give enjoyment to another generation.

Each time I return with my daughter, Lisa, 14, and son, David, 12,--it never fails to amaze me that this sense of wonder is not dulled by familiarity or repetition. Even more delightful, we all become the same age.

My favorite part of the park is Main Street with its wonderful smells and sounds of the past. Each of the last three years, some of us old Mice present a “Mickey Mouse Club” reunion show at the park for visitors who are made up of parents, who were our first audiences, and their kids. (In addition to me, the group consists of Sharon Baird, Sherry Alberoni, Bonnie Lynn Fields, Cubby O’Brien, Bobby Burgess, Tommy Cole, Don Grady and Lonnie Burr.)


Amazingly, the generation gap vanishes for a little while as everybody sings, “M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.” I’m sure it not only surprises us, but the audience as well that we nine old Mice can do four shows a day without benifit of cortisone and oxygen. I jokingly remind my fellow Mice to be really nice to me because, as a nurse, I’m the one who can do cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

When the Mickey Mouse Club was syndicated on television and my children were old enough to be told by neighbors that the pigtailed girl named Darlene was their mom, I remember feeling a little nervous that the show would seem silly and dated. Luckily, they liked it and I was proudly introduced to teachers and friends as “Mouseketeer Darlene.” I was also asked by Lisa (then 6) why I cut off my braids and had short hair. Somehow she didn’t think braids and wrinkles were incompatible.

My kids think I’m a star because when we’re at Disneyland people feel comfortable enough to tell me how much I meant to their childhood. I haven’t exactly been mobbed like Farrah Fawcett, but my kids are impressed, and that means a great deal to me.

Today I am a registered nurse working in the operating room at Burbank Community Hospital and rather enjoy being called the “Mouse Nurse.” I assume it’s for my five-foot size, or maybe it’s the large Mickey Mouse watch I wear that gives me away.